Leaking Airports

By | Category: Travel rumblings
Heathrow terminal 2. Why is Heathrow so popular?

Heathrow terminal 2. Why is Heathrow so popular?

On Tuesday there was an interesting debate in the House of Commons about regional airports. Interesting because MP’s weren’t set on scoring points of each other or party political points.

But they also raised all party concern about airports. years ago, no-one really wanted airports in the their back garden. Now all assert the importance of regional connectivity, that over- hyped phrase which really means that everyone should have the ability to fly from somewhere reasonably close to their home.

So when Mike Kane, the new MP for Wythenshawe and Sale East, said during this debate that 5 million passengers a year use London airports rather than Manchester Airport, it made me think. How much airport leakage – the number of people who could use their “local” airport but go to a different one – is there?

My nearest airport is 90 miles away which is at least a two-hour car journey or, if  I take the train, a 30 minute car journey to the nearest station and then 100 minutes at least and two train journeys if not three. So to me, it doesn’t really matter if I travel another 30 or 60 minutes to get to one more convenient. Whichever airport I use, takes a long while so why not opt for Heathrow which is about 230 miles away and takes about four hours’ driving? This must be the mentality of many people in the remoter areas of our countries.

But Manchester isn’t remote.

Leakage is largely due to the local airport not providing the routes that the traveller wants yet Manchester has good links with airports around the world so why would 5 million go elsewhere? Is it the hassle of getting there or the airport itself? Or do all 5 million want to fly somewhere that Manchester doesn’t have a direct flight to?

In providing an answer to airport capacity in the south east, the powers-that-be need to first understand why passengers are opting for Heathrow or Gatwick. They seem wonderfully inspired to create forecasts of what is needed but it is only needed if that resource isn’t available elsewhere.

The Manchester question requires more thought before any expensive decisions are made.

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